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June 20, 2010 / Jenny Ann Fraser

What I Learned From Dad

Dad in 1999

When I was a little girl, I thought that you had to go to school to learn things.  Smart people went to school forever and ever and learned lots of things to make them smart. I’m sure that a lot of kids think this is true and I’m sad to say that I suspect that a lot of adults still think this is true.

My Dad, could fix just about anything.  The only repair man that I ever knew existed was the TV repair man. I assumed that this was because my Dad didn’t go to TV repair man school.

As I grew up, I watched him fix cars, bikes, blenders,toasters, furnaces… you name it.  I watched him build fences, furniture, and an extra room in our basement. I heard him play the guitar and the saxophone and sing beautifully, though rarely with the right lyrics.

I thought that not only must he be one of the smartest men in the entire world, but also that he must be really, really old to have gone to school for long enough to learn all of the things that he knew.

When I turned 12 and started taking band at school, Dad decided that it was time to overhaul his saxophone so that I could learn to play it.

One Saturday afternoon, I passed by the open bathroom door and found myself in total shock to see his beloved Alto sax, striped of all of it’s keys and posts soaking in the tub.  I was blown away to think that he also knew how to fix a complicated precision instrument and wondered where and when he could have learned such a skill.

“Dad!  How do you know how to put that back together?” I asked.

He looked up at me with that lovely mischievous smile on his face that I remember so well. He shrugged his shoulders and calmly replied, “I don’t know that I do.”

And that, was the moment I learned one of the most valuable lessons of my life.

The secret to my Dad’s genius: He didn’t know anything! He tried, and if things didn’t work out, he tried something else. Fear of failure, wasn’t something that got in his way,as he didn’t expect some sort of guaranteed outcome. I understand now, that the real joy was in figuring out how to solve the problem.

Throughout my life, I have remembered this lesson many, many, times and it has served me well. Yet sometimes, I still forget. Sometimes I let the fear of not being able to figure something out stop me from trying.

We lost Dad in 2003, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss him. However,  I try to remember that the sadness I feel over the fact that he is no longer with us is really the overwhelming feeling of love. He is no longer physically here, but his love,  and wisdom and all of the joy that so many of us shared with him is something that we can carry with us forever. And for that, I am truly grateful.

Dad painted this picture and then gave it to me as a housewarming gift when I got my first apartment.




Leave a Comment
  1. Suzanne / Jun 20 2010 6:58 pm

    What a lovely tribute, Jenny.

    • jennyannfraser / Jun 20 2010 9:44 pm

      Thanks Suzanne. The saxophone story is one of my favorite memories. I’m glad I thought to write about it.

  2. mommylebron / Jun 20 2010 10:40 pm

    First, I really loved this post. Second, I left you something on my blog…….

  3. Emily Jane / Jun 21 2010 7:02 am

    This was so heartfelt and beautiful. What an incredible Dad. That lesson is a very valuable one 🙂

  4. Viv / Jun 21 2010 7:39 am

    Thank you; this was very moving.
    My dad is still with us and has always been Mr Fixit, and Mr Invent-it-if-the-shop-didn’t-sell-it. I think a good dad is a hard act for a guy to follow.
    An attitude like your dad’s gets you a lot further in life, I think. I also think you need to be quite secure in who you are to keep it, though. I doubt myself so much, so often and am easily discouraged.

    • jennyannfraser / Jun 21 2010 7:51 am

      Hi Viv,
      I too doubt my way into inactivity far too often, but I realize that when I have pushed forward with a project or idea, it’s always worthwhile. We have to learn to trust ourselves not to be perfect at all times, just to try.
      Yes, a good Dad is certainly a hard act to follow. I often blame my Dad for the fact that I’m still single, LOL.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. rob white / Jun 21 2010 11:38 am

    Wow, Jenny! I am blown away by the moment you shared here. It is amazing what sticks with us and serves as guiding principles through our lives. It is a fitting tribute and a great lesson on the fear of failure (or lack thereof ).

    I can thank my Dad for my sense of humor and ability to tell a good joke.

    • jennyannfraser / Jun 21 2010 5:21 pm

      Thank you Rob,
      I think it’s great when we can focus on the things our parents did right, and all that we learned and inherited that make us who we are.

  6. Belinda Munoz + The Halfway Point / Jun 21 2010 4:04 pm

    Hi Jenny, I’m so moved by this post I got a little teary. It’s such a beautiful, heartfelt message about your father who taught you an incredibly valuable lesson about life. And isn’t it true about those slippery life lessons? We find that we have to re-learn them over and over.

    I’m particularly awed looking at your father’s painting. It evokes a solitary moment in a camper’s life and I can feel the happiness and contentment as he communes with nature.

    And the photo of you and your father, so so sweet. I recognize that proud parental smile on his face and that feeling of safety evident in the way you hang from his embrace.

    My father whom I lost when I was a teen also had a talent for drawing and painting. Thanks for reminding me of that aspect of him that I enjoy re-visiting in my memory.

    • jennyannfraser / Jun 21 2010 5:26 pm

      Thank you Belinda!
      You actually reminded me of how much my Dad loved camping. We spent many a summer holiday around the campfire listening to him sing and play Calypso on his guitar. I always loved the painting because it reminded me of that, even though it is only one man.
      Actually, the little girl in the photo is a relative. I have so many stored boxes of old photos and such, but no place to really put them right now so I cheated and grabbed the first photo I found, but my Dad truly loved kids and she truly loved him. She’s 12 now but still remembers him well.
      So sorry about your Dad. It’s never easy to lose a parent, but I believe it must be even harder while your still trying to grow up. I’m so grateful that we had Dad as long as we did.

  7. Justin Dupre / Jun 28 2010 12:42 am

    Nice post! What a great lesson you learned from your father! I do also enjoy figuring out and solving the puzzle.. If I tried a few things and still doesn’t work I’d just google it and get it going. Thanks for sharing.

    • jennyannfraser / Jun 28 2010 8:34 am

      Thanks for stopping by Justin!
      I too spend some serious time on Google trying to learn new things… I’m not sure how Dad managed without it, LOL. Smart man!

  8. Greg / Apr 4 2011 10:47 pm

    Great story about the sax in the bathtub, Jenny. We all should do stuff just to learn, just to see if we can do it, just to see what happens and not get so caught up in the results. I’ll bet your Dad had many more successes in life than failures by taking risks and accepting mistakes as part of the learning process. Thanks for sharing!

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Apr 5 2011 7:25 am

      Hi Greg,
      That is so true! My Dad was brilliant, but it was all because he wasn’t afraid to fail. I often wonder what we’re teaching kids when we put so much emphasis on marks and test scores and “getting it right”. How will they ever learn to just try and figure things out for themselves? It is a way of thinking and being that I think we need if we are going to solve any of the world’s problems, but I fear we won’t develop enough of the right minds to get the job done.
      Thanks for stopping by!


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